Take Charge of Deferred Maintenance before the Dominos Begin to Fall

Posted March 13, 2024

I have always loved watching dominos fall – the precision, the clicks as they fall one by one, and the beauty of the symmetry. Unfortunately, there is no precision or beauty when the dominos of deferred maintenance begin to fall on a college or university campus. And so, I’m committed to helping campuses keep their dominos standing.

Institutions of higher education are in the business of educating students, maintaining high academic standards, recruiting and retaining talented faculty, and building thriving communities. To accomplish these things, they often build large campuses with buildings of all types, from dormitories and lecture halls to sports arenas and performing arts centers. Maintaining hundreds of facilities year after year becomes costly, so some maintenance is deferred until it is really needed or funding is more available. As maintenance is pushed off, systems can get strained, little issues become significant, and the potential for a catastrophic issue becomes real.

Managing deferred maintenance for a campus is not a small task. Campus leaders are often queried which projects are the priority, which will deliver the most benefits, and which projects cannot be ignored. They need information that facilitates objective comparison of needed maintenance through an understandable metric that provides ways to plan out specific scenarios to adequately budget and address the highest priorities on their campus.

Understanding deferred maintenance begins with a comprehensive condition facility assessment. This study gathers important data, which is then compiled into a report, but unfortunately, this report often sits on a bookshelf, as schools often struggle to convert this information into capital renewal projects.

Fortunately, my colleagues at CHA have developed a platform where assessment data becomes actionable information that drives capital programs. Information from renu360 helps leadership prioritize the most crucial needs, identifies projects that can be bundled together cost-effectively, and provides budget justification for investment in capital maintenance.

The renu360 platform starts with a team of expert assessors collecting data via tablets on each facility. Once the data is collected and accumulated in the tool, that information can be used to prioritize, bundle together projects in the same building, maximize material procurement costs, and/or leverage contractor expertise across buildings and projects, as well as provide scenario planning to determine future needs.

Undoubtedly, one of the most pressing challenges of managing deferred maintenance on college or university campuses is being able to connect the data to decision-making, budgeting and actionable capital maintenance projects. Collecting information is only a first step in this process and, unfortunately, is often where planning and budgeting come to a standstill. The renu360 platform delivers data on facilities using a Facility Condition Index (FCI) that takes the amount of maintenance issues in a facility divided by the value of the building to produce an objective “score” to rank buildings and maintenance projects. This information provides a solid foundation from which to budget and justify projects to campus leadership and stakeholders.

Deferred maintenance is a heavy lift, and there is no way around that fact. With a clear picture of their built assets, their most critical maintenance needs, and a path to address the most urgent maintenance, campus leaders are less likely to experience the dominos of deferred maintenance derailing their mission.